Photo of President Duterte administering the oath of office to newly appointed Department of agriculture Secretary William Dar (from RTVM)
Its been almost two decades since we have had an agriculture secretary who has real expertise or experience in agriculture, and who wasn`t a politician or mere political appointee.
William Dar, who sat as agriculture secretary in 1998 while waiting for then Senator Edgardo Angara to assume the post, was the last technical expert to head the important agency. Under his watch, our agriculture grew by more than 7%, its highest in 30 years. No secretary after him was able to match that. After this brief rise, agriculture growth was largely anemic and erratic since then. Our current agri performance leaves a lot to be desired despite the fanfare of new tractors and harvesters.
With a PHD in hostriculture, prior to being DA Secretary in 1998, he was director of the Bureau of Agricultural Research.
After his DA stint in 1999, Dar served as director-general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), an organization which conducts agricultural research for rural development. He led ICRISAT from 2000 to 2014.
With his background and expertise, he brings a lot of policy knowledge and the will to implement changes such as the game changing Rice Tarrification Law, which has already caused the lowering of rice prices.
The key challenge he faces is utiliaing the 10 Billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) under the rice tarrification law to boost rice farm productivity and income and implementing the Coconut levy to benefit the struggling coconut farmers who hold a fourth of our agriculture, and are worse off when compared to the rice farmers. If rice farmers sell at 14 per kilo, coconut farmers make do with 4 pesos.
Given his expertise and experience, expectations are high, with various sectors pleased at his appointment. We wish the new secretary a lot of luck, and hope that his performance will be much more than social media posts and press releases.